Year of No Light’s voyage to the throne of post metal’s monarch has taken many twists and turns through the years – namely a significant line-up shuffle after Nord that saw them sans-vocals, but now with two drummers and a solely instrumental sound. The test for this new formula was 2010’s Ausserwelt, a test passed with stunning, flying colours.
In a bid to prove that Ausserwelt was anything but a fluke, they released their split with Altar of Plagues, but most interestingly, emerged earlier this year with Vampyr, a YONL-style score to Carl Theodore Dreyer’s 1932 film of the same name. The score explored the band’s more serene and creepier tendencies. Tocsin is its polar opposite.
Heaving, crushing dirges of droning guitars, cavernous drums and solemn atmosphere are the record’s heartbeat once again. The title track makes this abundantly clear with a deathly, doom metal trudge, but then ‘Géhenne’ is different entirely, where the band has traded in its doom leanings for pacey, rumbling tribal drums and deafening air-raid-siren lead guitars.
This mood is greatly altered by ‘Désolation’, which lives up to its name with dreary, lethargic riffs and a morbidly slower pace, as ear ringing droning guitars reverberate throughout the track.
‘Stella Rectrix’ explores similar sonic realms with lethargically paced guitars, but glossed with tense waves of samples that start swelling with layers of brass samples and even heavier guitars, if that was even possible, so much so that it becomes an exhaustive listen.
Year of No Light have usually been a band that leaves the best for last and Tocsin is definitely a similar scenario. Whirring ambient guitars rule the order to begin, building and building in tension, perhaps predictably but still invigoratingly so, then lulling us into broody passages of glimmering guitars that give way to an utterly overwhelming crescendo, as a hail of dense guitars come crashing in, thus bringing this Tocsin excursion to a blindingly brilliant conclusion.
Tocsin is an bracing body of work from these Frenchmen, one that expands on the vast ideas of Ausserwelt while plucking shades from Vampyr’s penchant for atmosphere – overall, a resounding success.